A white college student could face a hate crime charge after she secretly “poisoned” her black roommate for several weeks, admitting to putting her tampon blood on her backpack and licking her plate, fork and spoon, out of “spite,” police say.
Brianna Brochu, 18, of Harwinton, Connecticut, was arrested by the West Hartford Police Department on October 28 and charged with second-degree breach of peace and third-degree criminal mischief, both misdemeanors, state court records show. On November 1, after the case gained national attention, West Hartford Police said that “after a review” they will be requesting an added charge of intimidation based on bigotry or bias, a second-degree felony. She has not yet been charged with that additional crime. The NAACP, students and others have called for state prosecutors to follow through on the request from police and bring the felony charge against Brochu.
Brochu is no longer a student at University of Hartford, where she was a freshman, the school announced Wednesday, November 1.
“As a young African American woman I don’t want to become another statistic. When it comes to college incidents/crimes and racial cases justice needs to be served,” Rowe wrote. She said when she told people what happened they couldn’t believe it, thinking it was “straight out of a movie scene.”
In a statement posted October 31, UHart President Greg Woodward said, “I am writing to you this evening to send a strong message regarding an incident that is deeply upsetting to me, our students, faculty, staff, and alumni. One of our students was the alleged victim of bullying and her story was shared across social media. Let me be clear: the accused student’s behavior was reprehensible and does not reflect the values of our institution. Let me also be clear that I am confident the University has taken all steps to pursue this matter seriously, and will continue to do so.”
On November 1, Woodward said in a statement, “I am writing to provide further updates on the deeply disturbing situation involving our students. As of this morning, Brianna Brochu is no longer a student at the University of Hartford. She will not be returning to the institution.” It is not clear if she was expelled or withdrew from the university.
Brochu appeared in court for the first time that same day and had her case continued to November 15. It was then pushed back to November 21 after her attorney requested a continuance. She did not comment during her first appearance and was not represented by an attorney. West Hartford Police Department spokesman Lieutenant Michael Perruccio said, “The department is in the process of reviewing the entire case to ensure the proper procedures were followed.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Brochu Bragged She Put Moldy Clam Dip in Rowe’s Lotion, Rubbed Used Tampons on Her Backpack & Put Her Toothbrush ‘Where the Sun Doesn’t Shine’
Brianna Brochu bragged on her Instagram page about what happened just moments after Chennel “Jazzy” Rowe told her she was moving out, Rowe said.
“Finally did it yo girl got rid of her roommate!! After 1 1/2 month of spitting in her coconut oil, putting moldy clam dip in her lotions, rubbing used tampons (on) her backpack, putting her toothbrush places where the sun doesn’t shine and so much more I can finally say goodbye Jamaican Barbie.”
You can see the post below:
West Hartford Police were called to the University of Hartford on October 18 about 1 a.m. for a report of a “vandalism/harassment issue between two roommates,” according to court documents. The roommates were both in the campus public safety office at the time. Rowe had reported to campus police that Brochu was “tampering with and vandalizing her belongings.”
The victim, Rowe, told police that since the start of the school year she felt “ostracized” by Brochu, according to the police report obtained by Heavy. She said “Brochu generally ignored her and treated her as a ‘ghost,'” Officer Anthony Miele wrote in the documents.
Rowe told Miele that she put in for a room change because of how Brochu treated her and on October 17 she began moving her belongings out of her room into one in another dorm building, the report states. “At that time she was approached by a neighbor … along with two campus resident assistants. (The neighbor) told Rowe that she had seen some very concerning posts made by Brochu on Instagram.”
Rowe said the neighbor showed her pictures of the Instagram posts, which were posted by user @breezy_bumble_b,” whom the neighbor knew to be Brochu. “The Instagram posts that (the neighbor) was concerned about appeared to be Brochu bragging about how she tampered with Rowe’s personal items unbeknownst to Rowe,” Miele wrote.
On September 8, 2017, Brochu posted a photo of a thermostat reading “76” and captioned it, “Goodmorning from the sweat lodge. Lol when our roommate try’s to cook you on the daily :) room was so hot last night our f*cking windows fogged up. #canadiansweatlodge #sauna #swampass.”
Along with the Instagram post above, which was posted October 17 at 10:36 p.m., the neighbor showed Rowe three photos, Miele wrote:
The first was of a purse later determined to belong to Rowe, stained with a reddish brown substance. Brochu later told me that was ‘period blood’ from the used tampon. The second picture was a plastic food container with a milky white substance in it with a caption of, ‘Like this is moldy clam dip and I’ve been mixing it with her face lotion.’ The third picture appeared to be of some type of weave hair piece and had a caption of, ‘This b*tch legit bought a box of f*cking hair.”
Miele then interviewed Brochu with her permission. Brochu told the officer she “did not have a good relationship with Rowe and began to lash out due to a ‘hostile environment,’ caused by Rowe’s ‘rude behavior, not compromising and posting Snapchat videos of me sleeping and making fun of me snoring.'” Brochu told the officer she requested a room change on October 11, but had not been granted one.
Brochu told Miele that she did “lick Rowe’s ‘plate, fork and spoon,’ put tampon blood on Rowe’s backpack, and mixed Rowe’s lotions with other lotions also on Rowe’s desk.” But Miele said Brochu “denied doing anything further and stated that anything else she bragged about on social media was a lie in an attempt to ‘appear funny.'” Miele said Brochu did confirm that the red stain on her ex-roommate’s backpack was “her own used tampon blood.” Brochu told the officer, “that she took these actions against Rowe out of ‘spite because of the hostile living environment and had ‘no intent of injury or to get her sick,'” according to the report. You can read the court documents below or here:
Rowe told police she had been “experiencing what she described as severe throat pain, to the point that she visited UHART Health Services for evaluation. Rowe stated that she tested negative for strep throat and Mono, however the nurse told her there was ‘bacteria present in her throat.’ Rowe could not elaborate further on this subject, but felt her throat pain was a result of Brochu tampering with her personal items. Rowe also confirmed that her backpack was still stained with blood.”
Miele said “Brochu and Rowe were told not to contact one another and they each signed no contact agreements. Rowe moved her remaining items out of her old room while I spoke with Brochu.” On October 21, Miele applied for an arrest warrant. It was reviewed by a prosecutor on October 25 and then signed by a judge on October 26. Brochu turned herself in on October 28 and was released.
Brochu is a freshman from Harwinton, Connecticut, a town in Litchfield County about 35 minutes away from West Hartford, where the University of Hartford is located. She graduated from Lewis Mills High School in 2017, according to the Republican American newspaper. In April, she wrote on the University of Hartford Class of 2021 Facebook page that she was looking for a roommate.
“Hey my name is Breezy I’m from Harwinton CT and have committed to University of Hartford. I’m looking for a roommate so if anyone is interested let me know. I love going out and having fun and can’t wait to start off the year,” she wrote.
She said she was randomly assigned to live with Rowe.
In an interview with the Waterbury Republican-American that ran on November 11, Brochu said she acted foolishly and did stupid things, but says she is not bigoted.
“I just want people to know I’m not racist,” Brochu told the newspaper. “I don’t want to be seen as this hated person because I’m not. I’m just trying to get through this the best I can because this is not who I am.”
Her attorney says his client has been receiving threats.
“She has been receiving death threats and other vile, hate-filled sentiments for the last week,” Thomas E. Stevens told the newspaper. “My client did some foolish things, but nothing she did was motivated by Ms. Rowe’s race.”
Stevens said he doesn’t think the evidence backs up a felony hate crime charge.
“The evidence is what it is, and I think that is why it wasn’t charged originally,” he said.
Brochu also told the newspaper she only did something to Rowe’s backpack once. “I only did it in one day. One day, one shot, one time,” Brochu said.
“I posted the post on ‘finsta’ just trying to be funny, which I know it wasn’t at all, and I regret everything deeply,” Brochu said. A “finsta” is a second Instagram account that is typically private and not under the user’s real name.
Brochu also told the newspaper that she didn’t call Rowe a “Jamaican Barbie,” because of her race, but because Rowe used that name on social media, creating a YouTube channel and Twitter account “It’s Jahs Barbie.”
Brochu said her actions were a reaction to Rowe posting a video of her on Snapchat. She said they were not getting along and sleeping schedules were a big part of it, claiming that Rowe was more of a night owl.
“She took a video of me sleeping in my bed of me snoring, and she posted, like, a caption on it saying, ‘Lord help me,’ and it was of her like rolling her eyes, making these disgusted looks, and looking very annoyed and just mad and angry at me for just sleeping; at that point, I was so embarrassed, and I was so frustrated and mad. … I did stupid, foolish acts, which I regret completely,” she told the Republican-American.
She said she is receiving counseling and working, but not attending school.
2. In a Facebook Live Video, Rowe Described the Horrific Treatment She Says She Endured & the ‘Extreme Throat Pain’ She Suffered
Rowe shared other Instagram videos and photos posted by Brochu, holding up her phone to show a video of her ex-roommate holding up an apparently contaminated jar of lotion.
“While I’ve been here, I’ve been getting sick. Not knowing why, I’ve been getting sick. It started with throat pain. I thought maybe because it’s colder up here, I’m just probably catching a cold,” she said in the video. Rowe said usually when she gets sick it starts in her throat and she then gets other symptoms, but she didn’t get any other part of the cold. “The sore throat pain got worse and it was just throat pain. And this was happening for about a month. It got to the point where I had extreme throat pain where I couldn’t sleep, to the point where I couldn’t speak. Like I’d try to whisper, and I could barely whisper.”
In the video, Rowe said she went to the campus medical center and was prescribed antibiotics, which helped, but doctors could not figure out what was wrong. Three tests came back negative and doctors said there was “some type of bad bacteria” in the back of her throat causing pain.
Rowe said she was assigned her roommate at random and had not been getting along with her since the start of the year. “I basically felt like I was unwanted,” she said. “I felt like I was a ghost in my own room.” She said she was “disrespected,” like if she was in her room working alone and Brochu walked in, Brochu would “turn off the light and just walk out, just a whole bunch of petty disrespectful stuff.”
But Rowe said she didn’t say anything because she didn’t want to start a conflict. Rowe said she doesn’t know why Brochu didn’t like her, saying she shared tried to be nice, sharing her microwave and fridge with her.
“She lives in Connecticut and she would go home every weekend. I would always feed her fish,” Rowe said. “I don’t understand why, which is why I think it’s a whole racial/hate issue.”
Rowe eventually moved out in mid-October after going through the process of finding a new roommate.
Rowe said when she moved out, the Instagram posts from Brochu were brought to her attention. She was not following Brochu on Instagram, but someone sent her the messages. She said Brochu also posted videos of Rowe eating, saying “if only she knew where her utensils been.”
Rowe said she is also bothered by the fact that she doesn’t know what else Brochu might have done to her, and that other people on campus were seeing the posts before she found out about them.
“It’s the fact that I didn’t know all of this was happening and it’s the fact that she’s been posting it on her Instagram,” Rowe said. “And I didn’t know anything about it until my neighbor’s friend (told me). If only I knew. I just want to know the ‘so much more.’ I want to know all the posts.”
Rowe said she went to her residence hall staff, but was told the situation was “over” when she moved out. She said she signed a no-contact order. Rowe said the school staff told her she could not talk about what happened or she would possibly be kicked off the residential side of campus.
“How’s the situation over? The situation just started,” Rowe said in the video. “I can’t get anything done to progress the whole situation, because you have to wait for public safety to finish the investigation in order for this to go up so things can actually start happening.”
Public safety officials told her she “might not hear anything at all” about the case. Rowe said she has had to go back and forth between her home in Queens, New York, and Connecticut to go to doctor appointments, and the health center has told her she needs to see an ear, nose and throat specialist.
“I’m missing classes because I have to go back and forth,” she said. “Meanwhile, nothing is happening, nothing is happening.”
In a Facebook post Rowe, a freshman who graduated from Springfield Gardens High School in New York, criticized the University of Hartford for how it handled the situation.
“Colleges are known to just sweep issues that happen within the campus under the rug, making the issue disappear and not doing anything about it. Now this isn’t right at all and this is where the public gets involved to push for things to be done right. I’m not holding my tongue any longer about my situation because this is just ridiculous to hear nothing back from my school about this situation,” she wrote. “As a African American woman I have to fight for myself and others to not become some statistic.”
“And the fact I’m black and my old roommate is white, if the roles was switched, I want to know if it would be handled the same way?” Rowe said in the video. “I damn well know it wouldn’t. … I feel like me as a black person and her being a white person, if I’m the woman who committed all these crimes, this would’ve been completely different. … There were so many crimes committed, that she openly posted. … I would’ve been locked up already, they would have had no hesitation, cuffed me and taken me away. I’m just so aggravated.”
3. The University Says Racism, Bias, Bullying & Abusive Behaviors Won’t Be Tolerated on Campus
Greg Woodward, the president of University of Hartford, addressed the issue in an October 31 letter to the community titled, “an important message.” Woodward disputed claims that the incident had been “swept under the rug,” writing:
Upon learning of the incident, Public Safety immediately ensured that the victim was relocated to a safe location, notified local authorities, and provided support for their investigation. The accused student was subsequently arrested by the West Hartford Police Department and her case will proceed through the legal process. The University will continue to precisely execute our defined process outlined in the Code of Student Conduct.
The University strictly and swiftly followed all procedural and legal processes related to this alleged event; claims to the contrary are based on misinformation. The incident has brought about accusations of racism, and I want you to know that I hear and share your anger and frustration. Acts of racism, bias, bullying, or other abusive behaviors will not be tolerated on this campus. I pledge to do everything in my power to work with our community to address related concerns together.
Woodward said he spent the day along with members of his administration meeting with students, including representatives of the Student Government Association, multicultural organizations and other concerned students.
“I have also met with the affected student and we are in communication with her family. We will continue to offer support and assistance to her, as well as any other student that feels threatened, victimized, or uncomfortable on our campus,” Woodward wrote. “Let me repeat; racism and hatred will not be tolerated on this campus. Period. I encourage every one of you reading this email to report incidents on campus that are troubling and worthy of review.”
On November 1, Woodward sent out a second update, announcing that Brochu is no longer a student at UHart.
“There has been an outpouring of concern for the victim of these acts from across the University and the country. In my meeting with her yesterday, I reiterated my personal commitment to ensuring she has all available personal and academic resources the University can provide,” Woodward wrote. “It is clear there is work to be done at our University to ensure that all students feel safe, respected, and valued. The conversations that began with student groups, faculty, and staff yesterday are going to continue and involve our full community. I am dedicated to that mission and will continue to share additional information about opportunities for our path forward in meaningful dialogue and action.”
Woodward added, “As I said yesterday, the University took action immediately once these allegations were brought to our attention. University Public Safety was first notified and responded to this incident at 11:48 p.m. on October 17. The reprehensible conduct of the involved student was not known by the victim or the University until that time. By 1:12 a.m. the West Hartford Police Department was notified and processes for legal and University conduct began. A no-contact order was put into place and the case was turned over to local authorities by 2:16 a.m.”
4. Brochu’s Case Was Moved to Hartford Superior Court Because of the ‘Severity’ of the Accusations, but She Hasn’t Been Charged With a Hate Crime Yet
Brianna Brochu was arrested October 28 on misdemeanor charges of third-degree criminal mischief and second-degree breach of peace, online court records show. The charges are both class B misdemeanors, which each carry a maximum sentence of 6 months in prison, along with a potential fine.
Brochu now could face an additional charge of second-degree intimidation based on bigotry or bias, a class D felony that carries a potential sentence of 1 to 5 years in prison. But the charge has not been filed. West Hartford Police said they made the recommendation of the additional charge to the Hartford prosecutor’s office, but it will be up to to State’s Attorney Gail Hardy and her fellow prosecutors to decide if the felony charge will be brought.
The intimidation law states:
A person is guilty of intimidation based on bigotry or bias in the second degree when such person maliciously, and with specific intent to intimidate or harass another person because of the actual or perceived race, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity or expression of such other person, does any of the following: (1) Causes physical contact with such other person, (2) damages, destroys or defaces any real or personal property of such other person, or (3) threatens, by word or act, to do an act described in subdivision (1) or (2) of this subsection, if there is reasonable cause to believe that an act described in subdivision (1) or (2) of this subsection will occur.
Brochu appeared in Hartford Community Court on Wednesday, November 1, before Judge Tammy Geathers. The community court is typically where minor cases are heard and end with community service and eventually lead to the charges being dropped and expunged. But the state prosecutor said her office has decided to move the case to Hartford Superior Court, the criminal court where more serious charges are heard, because of the “severity” of the allegations.
Brochu is currently free on $1,000 bail. The judge barred Brochu from the University of Hartford campus and issued a no-contact order with the victim. She told Brochu that if she contacts or tries to contact Rowe in person, by phone, on Facebook, on Instagram or elsewhere, she will be found in violation of the conditions of her release. Brochu, who was flanked by her parents in front of the judge, responded, “Yes your honor.” She did not say anything else during her brief hearing.
Brochu, who also goes by the name Breezy, won a four-year, $20,000-per-year scholarship from the college by entering the University of Hartford Scholastic Art Scholarship contest, according to Lewis Mills High School:
If you look at her showcase, you’ll notice that her artwork is not identified as perfect. Breezy confessed that if you look close enough you’ll see cracks and missed glazed spots. But she decides to keep those ‘mistakes’ because it adds character to her work. She identifies as being the ‘queen of mistakes and a walking accident,’ but ‘no matter how hard you take the L, you can always bounce back from a mistake.’ In addition, she often starts her pieces with no plan or outline. Breezy describes her work as spontaneous. However, she is inspired by the human figure and likes to go off of bones, ribs and spines.
Brochu said she was “discouraged” going into her senior year of high school and thought she would be staying at home to attend a local community college. But she said winning the award, gave her an opportunity to “go out and make something of myself.”
5. The Case Has Sparked Outrage on Social Media & a ‘Justice for Jazzy’ Rally
The case sparked outrage on social media, with Rowe’s video viewed more than 50,000 times on Facebook and shared thousands of times in 24 hours. It has since been seen by millions. On Twitter, activist Shaun King called the story “one of the nastiest things I’ve ever heard.”
He added, Dear @UofHartford, You have a chance to step up and handle this properly. The world is watching.”
A group of students held “Justice for Jazzy” meeting and rally on November 1:
A second rally was held in mid-November at the West Hartford Police Department to call for prosecutors and police to add a hate crime charge:
Other students and community members have reacted on social media, with some calling it a hate crime. Tajae-Jasmine Walton wrote in a post that has gone viral, “At a point in time, Jazzy had so much bad bacteria in her throat, she couldn’t even speak. She could have died simply because of her skin tone. University of Hartford is trying to silence Jazzy and her story, but we can’t let that happen. Too often colleges let severe hate crimes get swept under the rug but I hope Connecticut is better than that.”
A Twitter post has been retweeted more than 1,000 times:
Others reacted on Twitter:
In his letter to the UHart community, President Greg Woodward wrote, “I will proactively schedule and communicate additional community conversations in the coming days. I am willing and prepared to openly discuss concerns and will transparently share any additional information about University resources and processes that will make our community stronger. We pride ourselves on the diversity of our University and I am confident we provide a secure environment for our students in which to learn and thrive. Our community is not exempt from issues facing our society and world. We must strive every day to practice understanding, tolerance, inclusion, and grace. I know that you will join me in this critical mission.”